Young people in India are socially aware and this became more evident through major movements that made institutions realise that they can’t take students for a ride in the name of education. Students across the country rose up to regressive administration rules and discriminatory practices. Below is a list of 10 such movements.
January 2015 was truly a momentous beginning for student politics across the country. Students of Jadavpur University, in one of the largest student protests in the country, forced their Vice Chancellor to resign. The spark to the fire was added by a molestation case on campus, which was overlooked conveniently by the VC. Students went on a hunger strike and two rallies in Kolkata in September 2014 saw a turnout of 5000 and 10000 students in support of the cause. It culminated with nearly a 100 students refusing to take their degrees during the Convocation and effigies of the VC being burnt. After four months of continued agitation, in January 2015, the VC of Jadavpur University, Abhijit Chakrabarti resigned from his post, leading to much cheer from students of the University.
#Breakthecurfew and #responsiblyfree became the anthem of a massive movement at the College of Engineering, Trivandrum, Kerala in March 2015. Female students of the campus protested against the discriminatory curfew timings. What angered students more was that the hostels were not even provided a fire exit in cases of emergency to ‘protect the honour’ of the girl students! From cycle rallies to organizing street plays, the girls of the college didn’t back down to the regressive rules of the hostels that marred their scientific and moral progress.
On 12th June, 2015, Gajendra Chauhan was appointed the Chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). The appointment of Chauhan was seen as problematic by the students of FTII because not only did he lack the requisite credentials, but he had also been a right-wing hardliner for 20 years. Students of the FTII went on an indefinite strike protesting against the appointment, with protests in places like Delhi erupting into a clash of the students with the police. Directors Anand Patwardhan, Diwakar Banerjee and more returned their national awards in solidarity with the students of FTII. Finally, after more than 150 days of agitation, the students discontinued their protest and resumed classes. But the spirit of their movement signifies a larger struggle of the student body with a right-wing fascist objective of saffronizing education.
In July 2015, 73 students from the prestigious IIT Roorkee were expelled due to poor academic performance. Though they were taken back, what made the protests against this move of the institution significant was that of the expelled students, 90% of them were from the reserved category, and it is unclear whether ‘marks’ were the only reason behind the expulsions.
Over 300 students of Delhi College of Art went on a protest on August 31 over a shortage of teaching staff and equipment and lack of sanitation facilities. While Delhi CM Kejriwal, on one hand, had asked FTII Pune students to hold their classes in Delhi after a massive crackdown on them during their protests, there seemed to be little sympathy for India’s finest fine arts institution.
With little change in the course syllabus and lack of faculty, the protest ended on a very low note. But here’s hoping the students of DCA again rise up to the challenge and demand what is rightfully theirs.
The Footwear Development and Design Institute (FDDI) is a Government institute, but only in name. In September 2015, FDDI was involved in a major degree scam. Students who had enrolled post 2012 had been promised degrees from Mewar University in Rajasthan, whereas the campuses of the institute were located outside Rajasthan.
In May 2015, there was a rumour in the media that the degrees of students were invalid. On filing RTIs, the students discovered that this was true and that the UGC had already raised questions against the MoU between FDDI and Mewar University. On 12th September, students at FDDI went on a strike demanding an INI status for the University. On discussion in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry that is in charge of the University, Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated that the students should be awarded a degree from IGNOU till the institute was given an INI status.
Students continued their protest against the Institute, demanding INI status and refusing to be given IGNOU degrees. Their protest continues till date.
October was a seminal month for student politics, in more ways than one. Two students, Devangana Kalita and Shambhavi Vikram Singh began a Delhi-based campaign called #PinjraTod: Break the hostel locks in October, which was a reaction to a circular by Jamia Millia Islamia that cancelled late nights for its girl’s hostel residents. Women across the country began to question their hostel regulations and the Pinjra Tod movement soon gained momentum across the country. From Patiala to Hyderabad, women students refused to be bogged down by sexist rules that restricted their movement on campuses.
The Pinjra Tod movement reached campuses like Maulana Azad National Urdu University Hyderabad to Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University Lucknow and continues to unite students against sexist campus rules till date.
On 7th October 2015, the University Grants Commission (UGC) decided to scrap the non-NET scholarship, a scholarship given to students who haven’t cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) examination, citing that there was no need for them. For many, the meagre amount of the scholarship was the reason they could even conduct their research. What started as a small protest escalated into an occupation of the UGC head office. Students refused to let education be a ‘saleable commodity’, correlating the non-NET issue to the larger issue of the opening of the education sector to private investment with the signing of the WTO GATS by the Modi Government in December 2015.
And the Government responded with lathi-charge and surprise police raids on the protestors. Students continue their protest till date.
An unrelenting VC, cameras in every corner of campus, an indefinite postponement of students union elections – all this and more were reasons for EFLU (English and Foreign Languages University) Hyderabad students’ anger against their University. EFLU became the site of a battle between the students and the administration, with show-cause notices being issued for serving meat in the hostel during Gandhi Jayanti to posting a Facebook status about the University. In early November 2015, after an article was published about the University, some students were forced to vacate their hostels and the admission of one was cancelled. But EFLU students refused to back down, and finally elections were held in end-November and a new Union was elected to represent the students.
In November 2015, Prosenjit Sarkar, a final year engineering student at the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Durgapur died due to medical negligence on campus. While the Institute claimed that Prosenjit had died due to other reasons, students claimed that he was administered a wrong medicine and by the time arrangements were made to take him to the hospital nearby, he had already died.
Students of NIT Durgapur filed multiple RTIs against their University because of this case, and RTIs revealed faulty appointments, understaffing at the University, and more. #JusticeforProsenjit became a national movement, which even the Ministry of Human Resource Development couldn’t ignore.
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